Litigatrix

We all know Michele Bachmann as the Tea Party darling running for the Republican presidential nomination. Before that, Bachmann the Congresswoman became famous for making some of the most truly ignorant statements in modern American politics.

But few people know that before Bachmann became a crazy-eyed, anti-tax standard bearer, Bachmann was a lawyer. A tax lawyer. Working for the IRS. That’s right, as a lawyer Bachmann helped the government collect taxes.

But I wouldn’t call her a hypocrite. It seems she wasn’t all that good at collecting taxes….

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I am not proud to admit this, but it is possible that my three-year-old niece knows more about branding than I do. I learned this the other day when I was reading my niece one of her favorite books, Fancy Nancy.

For those of you who not know Nancy, she is a little girl who loves to dress fancy, act fancy and talk fancy. For example, this little girl does not say that her favorite color is purple. She prefers fuchsia, a word that is “fancy” for purple. Similarly, Nancy does not want a new hairdo. No, Nancy uses the fancy word “coiffure” instead. For some reason, my niece loves Nancy, but I think she is a showoff. When asked why she loves the know-it-all Nancy, my niece explained that she made things sound better.

Maybe my niece had a point. If you want your small firm to sound better, then use fancy words. As Nancy would explain, do not call yourself a “trial lawyer.” Everyone knows that “litigator” is fancy for trial lawyer. Or is it?

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Big news out of Washington today: Bob Bauer is stepping down as White House counsel. He’s returning to his former firm, Perkins Coie, where he will represent Barack Obama as his personal lawyer and serve as general counsel to President Obama’s re-election campaign. Bauer is being replaced by his top deputy, leading litigatrix Kathryn Ruemmler.

Kathy Ruemmler is no stranger to these pages. She’s famous for her role as a lead prosecutrix in the Enron fraud case — and for her fabulous footwear.

Let’s learn more about Ruemmler’s shoes — are they peep-toes? — and review her impressive résumé….

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Katherine Forrest: You'd smile too if you were this rich.

I recently wrote about Katherine B. Forrest, the celebrated litigatrix nominated to a federal judgeship on the breathtakingly prestigious Southern District of New York. Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, but before joining the DOJ she was a longtime partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore — a premier, if not the premier, American law firm. Forrest was one of CSM’s most popular (and most powerful) young partners.

Katherine Forrest has a reputation as an incredible attorney, and she has the awards to prove it (see question 8). Not surprisingly, the ABA deemed her “unanimously well-qualified” as an S.D.N.Y. nominee.

So here’s what I wondered: Why did the amazingly accomplished Forrest, a partner at super-lucrative Cravath for over a dozen years, declare a mere $4.3 million on her net worth statement? Granted, $4.3 million is nothing to scoff at; KBF is rich (even by Elie’s standards). But it seemed to me that a lawyer of her distinction, who was a partner at a top firm for such a long time, should be even richer.

Thanks to information from helpful readers who saw my earlier post, I now know the truth. As it turns out, Katherine Forrest is considerably wealthier than that $4.3 million number suggests.

Way richer, in fact. Let’s find out….

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Katherine Forrest: Why isn't her net worth higher?

As I’ve previously mentioned, one of my favorite parts of the judicial nomination process is the attendant financial voyeurism. Judicial nominees are required to make detailed disclosures about their finances, allowing us to learn about their income and net worth. For example, thanks to her nomination to the Supreme Court last year, we got to learn about Elena Kagan’s net worth.

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee released financial disclosure reports for several of President Obama’s recent judicial nominees — including antitrust litigatrix Katherine B. Forrest. Forrest has been nominated to the mind-blowingly prestigious Southern District of New York, perhaps the nation’s finest federal trial court. As a highly regarded lawyer who has won numerous awards and accolades (listed in her SJC questionnaire), Forrest will fit right in if confirmed to the S.D.N.Y. — a superstar among superstars.

The fabulous Forrest currently serves as a deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s antitrust division. She joined the DOJ last October — a commendable public-service commitment that required her to relinquish her partnership in one of America’s mightiest and most prestigious law firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore. When she left to pursue government service, Forrest had been a Cravath partner for over 12 years (since 1998), and had been with the firm for about 20 years in all (since 1990).

At the time of her departure for the Justice Department, Katherine Forrest had been taking home hefty paychecks for decades. First she was an associate at Cravath, which pays its people quite well, in case you hadn’t heard. Then she was a partner at the firm (reportedly one of the most well-liked and most powerful younger partners) — from 1998 to 2010, a period in which average profits per partner at CSM routinely topped $2 million and occasionally exceeded $3 million. And remember that Cravath is a lockstep partnership with a reported 3:1 spread, meaning that the highest-paid partners make no more than three times as much as the lowest-paid partners. So it’s not possible that she was earning, say, $400,000, while other partners were earning millions (which can be the case at firms with higher spreads).

In light of the foregoing, what is Katherine Forrest’s net worth, according to her Senate Judiciary Committee financial disclosures? Not as much as you might expect….

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On Tuesday, Ropes & Gray was sued in Manhattan federal court by a former partner, Patricia A. Martone. Martone’s lawsuit claims age discrimination, sex discrimination, retaliation, and interference with protected retirement benefits in violation of ERISA (the basis for federal jurisdiction in the S.D.N.Y.).

As you might expect from an ex-Ropes partner, Martone has some high-powered counsel: Anne Vladeck, one of New York’s top labor and employment lawyers, widely regarded as the queen of employment discrimination law. Vladeck famously (and successfully) represented Anucha Browne Sanders in her sexual harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas and the Knicks.

Patricia Martone is a veteran intellectual-property litigatrix, a specialist in patent litigation, with almost 40 years of practice under her belt. She made partner at Fish & Neave, the well-known patent law firm, in 1983, and then became a Ropes partner in 2005, when Ropes absorbed Fish. She’s now a partner at Morrison & Foerster, which she joined in October 2010.

Why did she leave Ropes? Let’s have a look at Patricia Martone, and her lawsuit….

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Michele Roberts

Although I now live in New York, I lived in D.C. for several years before moving back to NYC. And while I was in Washington, few trial lawyers were more renowned around town than Michele Roberts. A legendary litigatrix celebrated for her skill in the courtroom, Roberts was at Akin Gump — home to other top talent, such as John Dowd, now defending Raj Rajaratnam — from 2004 until recently.

Very recently. Yesterday the news broke that Roberts was leaving Akin Gump and joining global mega-firm Skadden. Skadden trumpeted the news in a press release, noting that Roberts “is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier trial lawyers,” with over 100 jury trials under her belt.

Roberts has a somewhat unusual background for a Biglaw litigation partner. Let’s learn more about her….

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Robert Leighton

Associates in the Chicago office of Sidley Austin seem to be doing a lot of walking these days. Last week, for example, bankruptcy associate Tyler Coulson announced that he was leaving the firm in order to walk across the country with his dog.

Today we bring you the tale of Sidley IP associate Robert Leighton, who apparently walked out on his fiancée, Lauren Serafin. But Serafin didn’t take the diss lying down.

Lauren Serafin is also a lawyer, so what did she do? She sued him, of course. Her suit for “breach of promise” seeks $62,814.71 in wedding and honeymoon expenses.

And it makes some lurid allegations about Leighton. Let’s take a closer look at the lawsuit — and the ex-bride behind it, who’s rather attractive….

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Testimony is now over in the trial of Gerald Ung, the Temple Law student facing charges of attempted murder and aggravated assault stemming from a shooting in January 2010. Ung shot Eddie DiDonato, a former Villanova lacrosse captain and the son of a politically connected partner at the Fox Rothschild law firm.

Throughout the trial, Ung’s counsel, renowned Philadelphia defense lawyer Jack McMahon, has argued that his client acted in self-defense. As he said in his opening statement, “This case is about privileged, drunken bullies, four guys, tough guys, big-muscle guys. It’s unfortunate what happened to this young man [DiDonato], but it was their own fault.”

Today Gerald Ung got to drive this point home, in his own words. In a rare move for a criminal defendant, Ung took the stand, testifying for almost two hours.

How did Ung do? Let’s find out — and play the role of jurors, by voting in a reader poll….

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Natalie Lee (aka Cavanaugh Lee)

Might we be seeing a new trend, namely, federal prosecutors moonlighting as novelists?

Last year, as part of Above the Law’s Career Alternatives series, we profiled Allison Leotta, an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. who wrote a well-received thriller, Law of Attraction. Today we introduce you to Natalie Lee — an assistant U.S. attorney in Savannah, former associate at Alston & Bird, and author of a new novel, Save as Draft. (When looking up the book, please note that Natalie writes under a pen name, “Cavanaugh Lee.”)

Like Law of Attraction, Save as Draft has garnered some nice reviews. A post on Chick Lit Reviews, for example, praises the book as a “fantastic read that all of us technology addicted Chick Lit fans will absolutely fall in love with, a must read!”

The reference to technology addiction relates to the novel’s ingenious premise. I discussed that premise — along with other topics, such as the inspiration for the book’s law firm partner / villainess, a products-liability litigatrix named Rose — in a recent interview with Natalie Lee….

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